Every Need Is Special. Everyone Different.

When I was growing up, we understood no two people were the same. 
As kids of educators, it seemed that inclusiveness was the only way there was to life. 
We grew up, kids from different communities, different backgrounds all in a similar scenario. 
Our folks never allowed us certain things simply because it may make some other kids uncomfortable. It didn’t matter that we could afford it and we wanted to have it. It was important that we understood how others would feel about certain things. It was important to understand privilege and be sensitive to those around us. 

We grew up in regular schools which did not talk about ‘inclusive education‘ or kids with ‘special needs‘. Every child had needs that were different and it was our job to ensure they were part of the class just as much as we were. 

Remember how when school projects were assigned, and as we built teams, we would assign roles based on the interest or skill of one another? Even as kids we knew that team work was crucial and somehow everyone, no matter how good they were at something, was assigned a role. One would be good at notes, the other would help with drawings, another craft work and someone would be pushed to make presentations. The essential bit was everyone was doing something, even the ones who didn’t like to do anything!

I was in eighth grade when dad started his school. Finances were limited. Those were the time when you made the most of what you had. So if you asked if the school had a lift for special needs students, proper ramps and counsellors, the answer was no. But did the school cater to kids with these needs. Yes. 
If there was a kid who was ‘slow’, they would given extra time, extra attention, extra everything that was possible. 
If a child was wheelchair ridden, his friends and teachers would happily, willingly, ensure he was part of the team. Dad would design the timetable and classroom allocation on his own to ensure that child was thought of. 
And more than that was the idea that they were valued and important! 
For me, that was inclusivity. 

I do not know when this changed or how this stopped being the norm. 
I can’t recollect when we started expecting every kid to be good at everything. When our regular classrooms became inconvenienced by the slow-learners or disturbed by the differently abled
I don’t know when we began to feel ‘disturbed, confused or uncomfortable’ by kids with special needs. 
Today we have segregated our communities, our classrooms, our spaces. 
We have labeled our children. 
We have separated them into categories. 

My son is great at English. His grammar and vocabulary is fairly strong. His friend is great at Hindi. And as they study these subjects together, it is a combination of empathy, competition and friendship that helps them learn better. When one is struggling, the other chips in. When one is lagging, the competition pushes them to do a little more. And somehow together, neither give up!

Have you noticed the same with little kids who grow up with elder siblings. They do everything faster because they want to be like the older ones. One does and the other follows. If one can’t, it is wonderful to see the peer take them through the process. And kids have this amazing sense of resilience and understanding that helps that weigh in and gauge emotions and ability. 

That is what is crucial. 
Teamwork that helps, encourages, includes, and challenges us to be better than who we were. 

Our Children are the best teachers of Inclusivity…Watch and Learn

That is what is essential to any learning. To the process of education. 
The ability to build classrooms that are an eclectic mix of every possible dynamic. 
It is not an easy process. 
It is time-consuming. 
It is also extremely challenging for the educator. 
But it is crucial. 
Because that’s when change will come through. 
When You and I will challenge ourselves to open our eyes to a different possibility, to a different world view, to a different way of solving the puzzle. 
When you and I can look beyond differences.
When you and I teach our kids to look beyond the labels and the categories and to see the people.

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